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Question of the Week: So What Do I Owe You?

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Q: My trainer spent many hours finding the perfect horse for me in my price range. Some of my friends said I owe her a commission, but she never mentioned one as part of the deal. What else can I do to show my trainer that I appreciate all of her help?

A: Many professional trainers who select a horse on behalf of a client charge a commission. It’s usually 10 percent of the horse’s selling price, paid by the seller to the buyer’s trainer, as a thank you for sealing the deal. Unfortunately, tales abound in the horse industry about creative ways of altering this practice. Some trainers also want a commission from their client (the buyer). Obviously this inflates the horse’s price. That’s why a savvy buyer asks upfront for any details regarding commissions.

Your trainer had plenty of opportunity to tell you she expected monetary compensation for her time and advice. Since she did not, then you’re off the hook for a commission.

Undoubtedly your trainer is happy to have a pleasant, loyal client in the barn who’ll continue to take lessons and pay training fees, especially in this economy. However, she’d surely appreciate a token of thanks. Non-monetary signs of gratitude could include cleaning her saddle, sprucing up the tackroom, washing her truck (or car) while she’s out giving lessons and clipping and grooming the school horses. Or you could go the gift card route. Think of something personal, like a certificate toward her next visit to the hair salon or a gift card to the local movie theater so she can see the current blockbuster. Whichever acknowledgment you choose, include a note that expresses your gratitude and acknowledges her business ethics. Your trainer sounds like someone who has your best interests at heart.

--Cindy Hale

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Question of the Week: So What Do I Owe You?

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Reader Comments

sandi c    clinton, WI

7/20/2012 6:07:09 AM

When your new best friend comes into your life and you share the journey with someone[your trainer]hopefully that friendship will last beyond the moment your horse backs out of the trailer.Remember a respectful hand shake and a sincere thank you will be priceless long after the money is spent.The best payment one can offer is by word of mouth.A trainer's reputation and continued success depends on it.So share your admiration with others.

Samantha    SJC, CA

9/27/2010 10:36:48 AM

Thanks for this article, and the handy suggestions about alternative ways to show a trainer appreciation for her (or his) work.

I teach riding and train, and while I don't make horse brokering a big part of my business, I do help clients or referrals buy and sell horses several times a year.

If I'm shopping for an existing client, like a lesson student who is ready for her own horse, I'll often waive a commission fee - because like you said, I'm just happy to have a client who has a horse she can enjoy and continue to take lessons on, and pay board for. The only real exception to this is a client who is looking for a show horse, because there's generally quite a bit more time and leg work involved because the rider's needs are a lot more specific and we may end up trying out (and ruling out) many more horses in the search process.

If I get a referral client - someone who had my services recommended to them, I always charge a commission. These are usually private owners who want a new horse, or a kid/husband-safe horse for a family member, but don't have the time or connections to make finding one on their own easy or low-stress. I also get referral clients who have horses they want to sell, but because of their work schedule or other reasons aren't able to keep the horse conditioned, groomed up, etc. to show potential buyers, or else they can't/don't want to do the necessary advertising, taking calls, answering emails, and so on. And again, I will charge a commission for that, because it's a lot of work.

But if I'm just helping a lesson student find a safe, reliable, sound horse to learn on and enjoy - I'd usually rather have a Starbucks' gift card and a nice note than about anything else. Busy trainers need their caffeine and who doesn't like to hear a heartfelt 'thank you'?

Kaitlynn    San Tan Valley, AZ

9/25/2010 9:03:51 PM

I paid someone a commission on every show horse I ever bought or sold. But not when I bought my little Arab trail gelding. That was just a private party.

Emily    Cedar City, UT

9/22/2010 6:14:31 AM

I've never heard about paying a trainer comission...interesting

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